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King's College London - Health: More than a medical matter





UK government may not follow IVF recommendations

23 February 2004

By BioNews

Appeared in BioNews 246

The UK Government is expected to announce that the provision of in IVF treatment on the NHS is to be made uniform across the country, but that only one attempt will be allowed per couple. NHS-funded IVF will also only be available to couples who don't already have children. Sir John Reid, the Health Secretary, is expected to make the announcements later this week, in response to guidelines issued by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).

In August 2003, NICE published draft recommendations on the provision of infertility treatment on the NHS, which at present varies across the UK. This has led commentators to suggest there is a 'postcode lottery' for IVF provision. NICE recommended that infertile couples meeting certain criteria should be offered up to three attempts at IVF using fresh embryos, with the possibility of further treatment using frozen embryos. Its draft guidance stated that couples should be offered state-funded infertility treatment if the woman is between 23 and 39 years old, and if there is either a diagnosed cause of infertility, or at least three years of unexplained infertility. IVF could also be offered by the NHS if a couple had 'an unequivocal need' for treatment, such as prior treatment for cancer, very poor semen quality, or Fallopian tube blockage.

The final version of the NICE guidelines, due to be published on Wednesday 25 February, is not expected to differ greatly from the draft. But the government's decision to ration the number of treatment cycles available will be likely to disappoint many couples. At the time the NICE draft guidance was published, it was estimated that it would cost the NHS £400 million and the fear was that the government would reject the entire proposal because of the projected cost. Instead, it appears that the government will simply limit the availability of treatment, recognising that the postcode lottery needs to be brought to an end, while not being prepared to entail the full financial burden.

Meanwhile, a report issued by a group of MPs suggests that the extra cost of meeting the NICE recommendations would be less than £50 million. Kevin Barron, chair of the All Parliamentary Report on Infertility said that costs could be saved by streamlining the system to reduce the likelihood of multiple births, rather than limiting the numbers of cycles funded by the NHS to one. He said that he would be 'very disappointed' if the government did not fund the three cycles recommended by NICE, adding 'Scotland already funds three cycles; it would be a great shame if England and Wales did not catch up'.

 

SOURCES & REFERENCES
All childless couples to get one free 'cycle' of IVF treatment on NHS
The Independent | 22 February 2004
 
Couples will get only one 'free shot' at IVF treatment
The Observer | 22 February 2004
 
IVF in all NHS areas, but just one attempt allowed
The Daily Telegraph | 21 February 2004
 
BBC News Online | 23 February 2004
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

25 July 2005 - by BioNews 
The Welsh Assembly Government has published access criteria outlining which infertile couples in Wales would be eligible for state-funded IVF treatment. All couples meeting the criteria will be allowed one full cycle of IVF on the National Health Service (NHS). According to the National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC), access to... [Read More]
21 July 2005 - by BioNews 
Despite government promises to end the 'postcode lottery' of the provision of fertility treatment in the UK, ten primary care trusts (PCTs) of the UK's National Health Service (NHS) have said they will refuse to fund IVF treatments at present. The ten PCTs, all in the county of Hampshire, said... [Read More]
26 May 2005 - by BioNews 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has published a new edition of its 'Guide to Infertility'. The Guide contains details of all UK clinics that are licensed under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 to carry out in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and donor insemination (DI), although it... [Read More]
05 April 2005 - by Clare Lewis-Jones MBE 
1 April 2005 has been a long time coming for thousands of couples in England. They read the same headlines we all did, back in February 2004 when John Reid MP, Secretary of State for Health announced that 'by April next year I want all PCTs (Primary Care Trusts) including... [Read More]
04 April 2005 - by Rt Hon Kevin Barron 
In May 2003, the National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC) approached myself and other parliamentarians for assistance in setting up an All Party Parliamentary Group on Infertility (APPGI), both to raise awareness in parliament of infertility issues and to put pressure on the Government to implement the National Institute of Clinical... [Read More]

26 August 2003 - by BioNews 
The UK's National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published the second draft of its proposed guidelines for infertility treatment provided by the National Health Service (NHS). It recommends that infertile couples meeting certain criteria should be offered up to three IVF attempts using fresh embryos, with the possibility of... [Read More]
11 August 2003 - by Juliet Tizzard 
This weekend, the Daily Mail newspaper broke a story that a British government agency is considering a proposal to offer six IVF cycles to women under 40 years of age on the National Health Service (NHS). If NICE, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, ends up publishing what are at... [Read More]
11 August 2003 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
Draft guidelines aimed at standardising the government-funded provision of fertility treatment in the UK triggered media speculation last week. The first version of the recommendations being developed by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) suggest offering up to six IVF attempts to women under forty, according to a report... [Read More]
10 July 2003 - by Julian Jenkins 
Although the media frequently present stories about infertility, how aware are the public about infertility and what are their views on NHS provision of infertility treatment? It is well recognised that there is a 'post code lottery' for NHS provision of infertility services, but how is this regarded by the... [Read More]

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